Unique species have been added to the total number of new species found in the Greater Mekong since 1997. Among the new 163 new species, there are nine amphibians, 11 fish, 14 reptiles, 126 plants and three mammals. The most exotic species include a rainbow-headed snake, a dragon-like lizard, and rare species of wild banana. The discoveries do not mean the habitat is not endangered. Growing human activity is threatening the exotic ecosystem.
The Greater Mekong is a region that spans six countries: China, Myanmar, Lao PDR, Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam. Scientists study it every year searching for new species and assessing the numbers of previously discovered animals and plants.
The report was published by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and says that since 1997, 2,409 new species have been found in the Greater Mekong, adding to the over 430 mammals, 800 reptiles and amphibians, 1,200 birds, 1,100 fish and 20,000 plant species.
“The Greater Mekong region is a magnet for the world’s conservation scientists because of the incredible diversity of species that continue to be discovered here,” Jimmy Borah, Wildlife Programme Manager for WWF-Greater Mekong, said in a statement. “These scientists, the unsung heroes of conservation, know they are racing against time to ensure that these newly discovered species are protected.”
The rainbow-headed snake (Parafimbrios lao) reflects the color of the rainbow on its head and was discovered in northern Laos. The species habitat is already undergoing changes and destruction according to the report.
The Phuket Horned Tree Agamid is a reptile that looks like a dragon, with multiple horns on its head and spine. Scientists said the animal is completely harmless despite his look. It eats insects and was in a tree when it was found in Phuket, Thailand.
The rare wild banana (Musa nanensis) stood out from the plants recently discovered because its red flower blossom is fluorescent and has tiny flowers structures different from all other members of the banana family. Scientists stated they have located only two small populations during 2015. The species is already listed as critically endangered on the IUCN Red List.
The most notable highlight of the report is the pressure the Greater Mekong is currently facing
Laos has a construction project in the vast region, exposing the Don Sahong Dam river to disastrous effects on the last Mekong Irrawaddy dolphins which were declared functionally extinct in 2016. Millions of locals that depend on the river’s fisheries will also be affected.
Thailand has proposed a solution to water management issues in Nakhon Sawan province, but the project represents potential damage to the country’s largest forest and wetland ecosystems. The proposed water solution would endanger crucial tiger habitats. Species living in the Greater Mekong also face threats like poaching for bushmeat and the multibillion-dollar illegal wildlife trade.
WWF’s most recent Living Planet Report found that by 2020, global populations of mammals, amphibians, and reptiles, fish and birds would decline by two-thirds, including species in the Greater Mekong. The Living Planet Report want to raise awareness regarding the importance of global biodiversity and prioritize the protection of the ecosystems that are home to endangered animals and plants.
Source: World Wildlife Fund